The Loneliest Place (excerpt)

An excerpt from the novel “The Loneliest Place” by Simeon Jankov.                       

I have got the desire to walk as long as possible, which practically meant I will get home that way. At some moments, I was getting a strange flattery feeling of resigned joy, but it lasted too short for me to get overwhelmed by that.

In such moments, I felt glad for getting myself involved, but due to the unfulfilled wish for the coffee I had craved, I felt embittered.

The day wasn’t as perfect as I thought it would be; apathy, deep and almost lethargic, was dragging my feet on the sidewalk near the main street, I was passing by many unfamiliar faces, some of which I might have known before, buy, even still, as if I was seeing them for the first time. They were faceless, their age couldn’t have been determined, as if ghosts from different times gazed at me, whispering in each other’s ears, and chuckling after getting passed by me.

Maybe they were pointing fingers at me, asking themselves what was wrong with me, but nobody dared to ask me. As if they had been scared by my cold eyes.

The ideal hour for the most delicious coffee was already behind, within the frozen moments of the most recent past, in the breeze on the little window of the bus and the spring sunshine after I got off the bus. I would have looked pretty weird had she noticed me heading towards the mall because she suggested we grab a drink somewhere right away, and I lied to her that I was in a terrible hurry.

Actually, I wasn’t in a hurry at all, because my time was too long now, and it could have passsed only at the cafe where a few times, at the beginning of our relationship, Renata and I came by. It was the same where I had hung out with Izabela for the first time twenty years ago. As if I had, for the last time, to go through the same and again, even briefly, to dream again that bygone dream, not as a direct participant, but rather as a beholder of something I had never taken part in because it wouldn’t be me anymore.

I sat at the round table placed in the corner across from the one where I and Izabela had been sitting for the first time, the same one I had been sitting at with Renata a few times, and I ordered a double Vodka. After the waitress had brought it to me, she asked if I would like Gazoza too, that’s when I gave her a befuddled look before nodding, being taken aback by how she have guessed it right away; it even crossed my mind that she was the same one as if she got frozen up within that night and remained in some kind of a time trap she could never break free from. We had been drinking Gazoza that night, I still remembered that with crystal clarity.

But the Gazoza was mixed with Vodka in the armchair in the building with the right number and corresponding street. For a moment it crossed my mind that in such teen elation we shared with her how we had spent New Year’s Eve, and she got so thrilled, that remembered our words even to this day. But the waitress back then had been a bit older than us, and this one had been probably using diapers, or with the help of her mother, had been learning to walk independently, just like the toddler under the spring sun I saw after getting off the bus. Quiet jazz was playing. A company of four women in their thirties had entered, and after them, a middle-aged couple who I took a wild guess were adulterers, but nobody took a seat at the very same place. As if it really belonged to the past. 

After I drank my mixed double Vodka and ordered the same again, two high-school students were already sitting there; it was Isabella and I, only I was no longer me, but some perverted observer sticking his nose where it shouldn’t be. They kiss on the lips, he whispers something gently to her, she laughs and whispers something funny to him, while the sound of the train pierces my ears, it’s loud and shrill, as if crossing the threshold of my apartment leads right onto the tracks. She tells him that she needs to fix her hair, gets up and heads to the bathroom. He waits for her, and grows more and more impatient, 20 minutes pass, an hour passes, and a year passes, but she never comes back.

 He doesn’t move from that place for years, as if an eternity passes; he has aged a bit, his cheeks are losing freshness, there are wrinkles on his forehead, and patches of baldness above. Jazz has not been playing for a long time, some much weirder music enters from somewhere, along with medium-sized heels and beautiful knees half covered by the dress. She is a little bit older than him, but still, she is a real beauty. He stands up and holds her in his arms, hugging her, as if he never wants to let her go.

“Izabela, you came back to me! I’ve been waiting for you for almost 20 years!”

She pushes him away and weighs him up with contempt as if assessing how much he must have drunk to dare for such excess.

“You’ve mixed me up with someone else, sir! My name is Renata.”

His shoulders sink, icy tears come out of his eyes fixated on hers.

“Don’t joke, please,” he stammers while begging her, stressing almost every syllable. But she shows no reaction that would have comforted him; she stands in a defiant silence, with defensiveness on her folded arms on the chest. The waitress intervenes, but at my table, not theirs, her hair is so disheveled that she resembles a witch, and her eyebrows are desperately spiked up. She asks me why I’m so ignorant and ill-mannered, and if I’m finally going to leave, because otherwise, she can’t go home either, and she’s so longing, she’s been waiting for many years, and her close ones must have had come to terms with their loss long ago, thinking she has been dead for a long time.

But it seems to me that she just wants to distract me, so I put my hand in my pocket and leave a thousand denars on the table, with condescending generosity telling her to keep the change, and she, already with a severely depressed face and words she utters, but I feel they do not reach me, still, somehow I read her lips, tells me that no amount of money can make up for the time lost.

I get up, Renata exits, I turn around, the guy is gone, the table is empty. I storm out after her, I look for her, I look for a long time, even though I know very well that I will never find her again. I’m standing in front of the cafe as if enchanted. Quite jazz is heard from there again.


I came home and ate one orangee right away. It reminded me of my grandfather’s orangees. When I was a little kid, he would pick an orangee from the apple tree, cutting it in two halves without peeling it off, so it would retain its color, using a pen knife to remove the apple core. I would stick my tongue in its hole; that’s how I wanted to take it slow to savor it. And then I would bite it like a starving rat.

But many years later, when I unexpectedly came across an orangee from the long-time ago shriveled apple tree, my grandfather had not been present there. I would close my eyes, panting in excitement, Izabela would sigh, heave, and giggle like a little girl concurrently, while I would gently lick the hole between her spread legs, but that hole had not been her reproductive organ and had been situated a little bit lower. Otherwise, we would have had sexual intercourse earlier than planned.

Yes, it was all about the short-lived childhood mantra… the beginning and the end! She would admit she was going through a delightful experience, and after we finished, she kept looking at me lustfully, though she felt a little bit awkward because of me, but there had not been any room for awkwardness, I just found what I had been looking for for years, and she gave me the indispensable incentive.

That experience had been so intimate for me that I didn’t even think to do it with someone else until I met Renata.


Her name was Emilia. She didn’t want anybody to shorten it; Emi sounded to her like an exclamation, Ema – like a particle, and Emche reminded her of rice pudding or melted cheese with Vegeta and some other hot spices.

She lived in the building in front of which the incident took place.  She was the woman I had seen at the same place last autumn, there wasn’t any doubt in my mind about that.

But there was also no doubt in my mind that when I headed so anxiously towards her building back then, wondering where Renata really was, I had been partly, though I didn’t want to admit it to myself, hurrying with the hope of meeting her.

But when looked at close up, they weren’t such lookalikes, though they both were equally beautiful. Their eye color was the same, they had similar, perfect noses, but Emilia’s lips were a little bit bigger, and she didn’t have the brightness of Renata’s complexion. She was at least 2 centimeters shorter, and 14 years younger than her. I hesitated for a little bit on how to begin. Although I hadn’t been particularly excited about seeing her, I couldn’t allow myself to appear neglectful.

If I only send her a message, without calling her, she might think I’m timid, but no, she had already seen I was not like that, only not interested enough in her.

I imagine myself sending her a message, she reads it, leaves it, only to reread it five minutes later, carefully examining the words, a headache has her eyes half closed, and she painfully frowns, her fingers run against the wet forehead.

She gets off the bed and goes up to the desk. There’s some burning sensation under her waist, she pulls down her track pants along with the panties, and being out of sorts, sits on the chair, she wants to get her bottom cooled off.

The right elbow is on the naked knee, the tilted cheek is supported by the open palm, she holds her cell phone in the left hand; confusedly gazes at it, and only for a moment, as if furtively, throws glances at the PC, which is turned off.

She keeps sitting that way for ten minutes and still doesn’t know what, if anything, should reply to me.

She is thinking about how to explain to me that the invitation was for that day only, as a result of all those circumstances, by the way, she has a good opinion of me, therefore she doesn’t want to give me false hopes.

He had been again at her place yesterday, begging her for another chance. They lay down. She has even six orgasms. She doesn’t reply to me at all, she hopes I will figure it out myself. She continues seeing him. It would be best for me to wait one more week.

Furthermore, she could call or text me first, but I’m shivering from what I may see on the internet ten days later. A woman murdered in her apartment. Street so and so. The suspect is her “ex-friend”. He has strangled her in a fit of furious jealousy. He had been recently detained by the police due to violence against her, but it took place on a street, and there wasn’t anyone to help her at home. The suspect had immediately confessed, showing deep remorse. According to him, everything happened in the heat of the moment. Her dead body was taken for autopsy. This sequence of events scared me off, I called her immediately, and we agreed to get together for a drink. We caught up at one of the smaller cafes downtown, which I suggested, and was pretty much well known for herself to know where it was. Since it would be our first meetup, I thought we should meet at some neutral place, away from both her and my home.

The last thing I wanted was to hint at where we could continue after having our drinks. I went on foot, it was anyways not far. It would have been inappropriate for me to be late, so she would be waiting for me, but I would have felt pretty stupid in case I arrived 15 minutes earlier, and she arrived a little bit earlier, finding me waiting for her.

It would be best for me to arrive on time, or not more than two or three minutes earlier. I put a black shirt and a gray suit; I wanted to appear more serious, furthermore, I didn’t want to wear anything that could have reminded her of that day. I considered this our first meetup, and so it was; what had happened in autumn couldn’t be counted as a meetup by any means.

Back then, it had been only me to see her, not otherwise, and I didn’t know who she was. The incident a few days ago – even less.  Such a set of circumstances, unplanned and violent, might have been considered anything but a meetup. By all means, I couldn’t rule out the possibility that she only wanted to thank me, so our acquaintance would not progress; actually, I got out with such a thought. Despite all these minor analyses in my mind, I really didn’t expect anything; I didn’t think what we may be talking about, didn’t have any plans about that, the last thing I wanted was to show up funny, nor did I care about the impression I would make on her. The latter was, to some extent, relative.

I couldn’t let her think there has been something wrong with me. Overall, it was the straightforwardness that was most important to me, so I expected the same from her. I passed the street before slipping through the gust of the trade center, then I noticed I was 14 minutes away from the meetup, and with that pace, I would have arrived at the cafe in no more than 8. I stepped off the marble gleam of the slabs before coming down to the darkness of the quay. The wind had been rustling in the bloom of the branches by the riverside, rippling the river gurgle, in which the breath of the city had been drowning. I felt coldness in my chest, I bent my arm so I could mitigate it, but I didn’t slip any button through the buttonhole; my left arm dangled at the same time as the neck, I crouched down and the angle of my bent elbow decreased as I grabbed the round piece of dead light on the grass. A beer cap, not a coin, as I was hoping.

 I arrived one minute earlier. I noticed her sitting at a small round table; she was going over the menu or only pretended to as if she had been experienced enough not to look at the time. I have noticed a little anxiety in her eyes and the restrained, still pleasant brightness on the juicy lips. She was being casual or at least she was really trying to appear so, which was the same in the end, the first impression she made on me was nice, and that was the first impression indeed, everything else from before wasn’t relevant anymore. Emilija worked as a daycare teacher.

She always wanted to work with little kids, therefore after graduating from high school, left her native Bitola and enrolled in the University here.

Somewhere in the middle of our conversation, she started throwing her hair back, giving me shy looks in the eyes, letting her fingers run behind her ear, and ostensibly unintentionally starting to touch my hands. She was the one who started flirting, then I flirted back, but not to the point of kissing her on the lips; I did that before we parted our ways after we had gotten up and walked up to the street next to the Francophonie park where she got into a taxi.

The day after tomorrow, she needed to go to Bitola and stay there for a few days, and we agreed to meet upon her return. The first rendezvous didn’t necessarily mean anything, even still, I had to let her know I was looking forward to seeing her again. Upon coming home, I messaged her telling I have had a good time, she messaged me back virtually the same, and in addition, said she was looking forward to our next rendezvous. A few days later, she called me to let me know she will be back tomorrow. This time it was me to suggest a rendezvous in the cafe with the best exterior, which had been situated not far from her apartment, which could be an opportunity to continue the rendezvous in a more intimate way. She must have easily realized what I hinted at, which I didn’t intend to hide; on the other hand, it could be nothing more than a possibility; ending up at her place would have to be on her initiative. I should not come on too strong, I had to leave her the choice so she could feel free, with being free only she could desire to be mine, even if for a night, although I already thought I wouldn’t put up with that.


She had returned from Bitola around 6 PM, she wanted to take a little rest and then catch up with a friend, therefore we agreed to meet up half an hour before midnight. We sat for about an hour, having one big beer mug each. This time it was I who paid the check. Things started becoming more and more clear to me, but it didn’t necessarily have to lead to a definite conclusion or a predetermined outcome, so I still wanted to give her space to change her mind. After we had gotten out, she patted me on the shoulder, before pointing her finger to the building she lived in, which at least meant I would walk her to the entrance. We had stopped near the same boutique. The nearest street light was out of function, therefore it was pretty dark around. I grabbed her by her waist, and pulled her, before giving her a passionate kiss, she sighed, nuzzled up against me, and started panting after I greedily squeezed her booty.

“Let’s go to my place”, she suggested in a blink of an eye,  being so horny, that I felt the fire of her breath heating my ear, before seeping through its cavity, tightening my jugular vein, and reaching its climax in the dizzy sensation between my legs; I grabbed her even more tightly right between the cheeks of her bum, covered by the dress, and looked up towards the bus stop, from where Tony was watching, giving me a thumb up as a sign of approval.

We had snuck in the entryway, having her hand wrapped around my lower back while mine was still on her butt, and ran upstairs, ending up in her bed. Before penetrating, I had lustfully pulled her panties down and threw them up. If only there were someone to take a picture of that! It would have been a great photo. I have virtually the same! Last autumn I skillfully captured that moment. I hid it in my cell phone. As if they were hovering in an empty room without curtains, and there had been something almost ghostly about that.

Translated by Simeon Jankov

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